adults see experimental tobacco use as a natural part of the growing
up process. Some adults will even argue that marijuana use is really
not such a big deal. However, recent studies of American youth have
revealed that youth ages twelve to seventeen who smoke tobacco are
nine times more likely to use illegal drugs and fifteen times more
likely to drink heavily than youth who do not smoke tobacco. Furthermore,
youth ages twelve to seventeen who use marijuana weekly are nine times
more likely to experiment with other drugs; six times more likely
to run away; five times more likely to steal; four times more likely
to engage in violence; and three times more likely to have thoughts
about committing suicide.
In the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that youth
twelve to seventeen years old named drugs as the most important problem
they face; more than social pressures, violence, crime or any other
issue. Another finding of the study is that while 18% of parents think
their teenage child has tried marijuana, 40% of teens say they have
tried marijuana. Twelve and thirteen year olds responding to the study
reported that the drugs they are most likely to use, besides tobacco,
are marijuana, prescription pain relievers, and inhalants.
spite of these sobering statistics, there is good news. Youth are
less likely to use drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, if they have:
positive attitude, an ability to adapt to change, and a belief in
their ability to handle things.
warm close-knot family and parental supervision with consistent
friends and extended family that provides support.
resources and family and community attitudes that do not tolerate
where drug use among youth is lowest have identified six things that
make a difference. The first is to establish and maintain good communication
with children because some youth use drugs to satisfy curiosity. Parents
and other significant adults can do that by setting aside a few minutes
each day for active listening. Validate the child’s feelings
and avoid being judgmental. Finally, ask questions. When adults continue
conversations by asking questions and actively listening youth respond
caring adults are actively involved in young people’s lives
it is easier to recognize increased stress and subtle changes in behavior.
Fifteen minutes is the minimum amount of child-directed activity that
will foster a real sense of involvement. Children and youth also benefit
from one on one time with a responsible adult. It is especially important
to have discussions with young people about why drug use is not acceptable.
These commitments by adults promote opportunities to support the child’s
activities and make it easier to recognize good behavior consistently
and immediately. Television viewing time, video game time, and movie
outings provide the perfect opportunities to point out examples of
unacceptable behavior in movies, television shows, music videos or
video games. Family mealtime is another valuable opportunity to share
news and discuss current affairs.
responsible for children and youth in family, school, and community
settings need to make clear rules and enforce them with consistency
and appropriate consequences. The lack of rules and consistent enforcement
encourages some youth to use drugs to take risks and test the rules.
The rules need to include clearly defined expectations. Once age appropriate
rules and expectations have been clearly defined young people respond
well to acknowledgement when they follow rules.
Probably the most powerful component of the adult-child relationship
is being a positive role model because some youth use drugs to appear
grownup. It is unlikely that conversations and rules will be a deterrent
to drug use if the adults says, “ Do as I say not as I do.”
Furthermore, children must not be involved in adult substance use.
It is harmful to ask children to serve an alcoholic beverage or deliver
tobacco products or lighters.
need to develop the decision-making skills necessary to choose friends
wisely because some youth use drugs to fit in and belong. Other skills
that can help youth choose friends wisely include, how to avoid peer
pressure, social skills appropriate for age and environment, and the
ability to analyze media messages.
critical role for adults who have responsibility for children is youth
is monitoring their activities because some youth do drugs when they
think they have nothing better to do. It is important for parents
to establish relationships with the child’s friends and the
friend’s parents. When your child is away from you know where
they are, whom they are with, and what they are doing. An important
rule to make and enforce is for the child to check in at regular times.
Parents, schools, and communities have a responsibility to make sure
children and youth have access to enjoyable, drug-free, structured
succeed in school, lead a healthier life, and develop full potential
when families, schools and communities work together to make sure
that all children have access to the support they need to resist drug
DHHS Publication No. (SMA)-3772)